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Jose Altuve is remaining in Houston. The Astros announced the signing of the former MVP to a five-year extension that covers the 2025-29 seasons. Altuve, a client of the Boras Corporation, is reportedly guaranteed $125MM. He’ll collect a $15MM signing bonus. Altuve’s previous deal called for a $26MM salary in 2024 that remains in place. He’s now due $30MM annually between 2025-27 and respective $10MM figures from 2028-29. He had been slated to reach free agency next offseason.
It isn’t exactly a surprise to see the two sides come together on a deal. Dana Brown was hired as the club’s general manager in January of 2023 and almost immediately spoke on the record about how he hoped the club would be able to lock up core players, including Altuve. Shortly thereafter, he said that Altuve “should be in Houston for life.” It was just a couple of days later that Altuve himself said “I hope to retire here, so I think we’re on the same page.” It was in March that Brown pushed the brakes a little, saying extension talks would likely be pushed to after the 2023 campaign, with a deal now coming to fruition. This new extension runs through Altuve’s age-39 season.
This is the third time that Altuve and the Astros have signed an extension, which has kept him with the team as so many others have come and gone. Fairly or unfairly, that has made him the face of the franchise, which is a double-edged sword. For supporters of the club, he provides a through line from their miserable rebuilding years at the start of the previous decade to their incredible run of recent success, which includes a pair of World Series titles and seven straight ALCS appearances. For many others around baseball, his accolades remain tarnished by the 2017 sign-stealing scandal.
However one feels about Altuve’s legacy, there’s no question he remains one of the sport’s best offensive players as he goes into his age-34 campaign. An atypically poor showing during the shortened 2020 season looked as if might signal the start of a decline. That hasn’t been the case. Altuve rebounded with 31 homers and a .278/.350/.489 showing in 2021. He has been even better over the last two seasons. He raked at a .300/.387/.533 clip with 28 homers through 604 trips to the plate two seasons ago.
A thumb fracture sustained when he was hit by a pitch in last year’s World Baseball Classic kept Altuve off the field for the first couple months of the 2023 season. He returned in the middle of May, and while his season was again paused in July by a mild oblique strain, he was no worse for wear when able to take the field. Altuve ran a stellar .335/.404/.544 line in the second half and finished the year with a .311/.393/.522 mark in 410 plate appearances. He concluded with another excellent playoff performance, knocking four home runs while hitting .286 in 11 games.
Since the start of the 2021 campaign, Altuve is a .294/.374/.513 hitter. That offensive productivity is 47 percentage points better than league average, as measured by wRC+. That’s easily the best hitting performance by any second baseman and a top 10 mark among all qualified batters. Altuve remains as difficult as ever to strike out and has posted his two highest single-season walk rates within the last two years.
To the extent that the eight-time All-Star has shown any signs of aging, that’s limited to the other side of the ball. Altuve has never been a great defensive second baseman. His glovework has dipped in recent years, although the extent of that drop-off differs depending on the metric. Statcast has graded Altuve around league average. Defensive Runs Saved, on the other hand, estimates that he has been a combined 28 runs worse than an average defensive second baseman over the last two years.
That’s not of much concern for Houston as they retain one of the best players in franchise history for what’ll likely be the remainder of his career. By the time the deal wraps up, Altuve will have spent parts of 19 years in a Houston uniform. Whether the Astros can maintain the kind of team success they’ve had over the last eight years for the rest of the decade remains to be seen. Houston has a number of key players approaching free agency within the next season or two.
Alex Bregman will hit the open market a year from now. Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez have two remaining seasons of arbitration control. They’ve successfully locked up Altuve, Cristian Javier and Yordan Alvarez on extensions and have three-plus years of control over the likes of Hunter Brown, Jeremy Peña and Yainer Diaz. There could be some turnover if Bregman, Tucker and Valdez were to depart, but the Astros are trying to ensure the window doesn’t close entirely.
Altuve’s extension won’t affect their salary commitments for 2024, but some or all of the signing bonus could be paid this year. Houston already had a franchise-record level of spending with a projected 2024 payroll approaching $240MM, per Roster Resource. They now have upwards of $115MM on the books for ’25 and over $100MM in commitments to Altuve, Alvarez, Javier, Josh Hader and Lance McCullers Jr. for 2026.
Ari Alexander of KPRC 2 first reported the $125MM guarantee. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported the specific salary structure.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.